How to Solve Your Recruiting Problems (and Where You Should Go to Do It …)

Jan 31, 2014

One of the prime purposes of and other such forums is for advice and problem-solving. One thing that doesn’t often seem to get discussed is where someone should go for answers to recruiting problems, and that’s what I’ll talk about here.

My father was a college professor of american history. He wasn’t a terrific scholar, but he was a great teacher (judging by what I saw and heard about him). One of the things he used to tell his students when they were researching a “paper” (which in those days was actually on paper), was that “It’s important to first go to the primary source whenever possible.”

In other words: go to the person who did it or saw it, and not just someone who heard and wrote about it (the secondary source). When you have a recruiting problem or question, I think the same advice can apply: “Go to the primary source first.” In many cases, you are the primary source. You’ve been around awhile, been in this situation before, and have a good track record and instincts, so trust yourself to know what to do.

Sometimes you have a situation that you haven’t had before, or at least not very recently (so your solutions might be out-of-date). Where should you go for advice and solutions in that case? I suggest you check with your peers, who may have “been there and done that,” even if you haven’t (lately).

If this doesn’t solve the situation, do your research. There’s quite likely a considerable discussion of the topic online, and probably right here on ERE.

Quite often, you’re faced with a situation involving your subordinates’ work. When this is your situation, the “primary sources” are those same subordinates — the very people actually doing the work. I’ve long maintained that after a few weeks, even an entry-level employee is likely to know more about the ins and outs of their job and how to improve it than almost anybody else, including you. However, it’s been my experience that for whatever reasons, asking employees their opinions with the goal of acting on them is very rare. It shouldn’t be. Besides providing the answers you are looking for, asking people what they want/need and acting on it is a very good way of improving employee engagement. So involve as many relevant employees as possible for the input phase and not just a select group. (The ones you don’t want to hear from are likely to be the ones you should hear from.)

Finally, if you’re dealing with a novel situation that neither you, your peers, nor your employees have dealt with before, it makes great sense to use an outside consultant familiar with the topic or go to a real-time meeting discussing/devoted to it. As with the use of a highly experienced, world-class, third-party recruiter, you are likely to receive valuable information, well worth the price you pay for their services or to attend the meeting, and like the use of the third party-recruiter, this should be done as you might enjoy a rare and expensive bottle of wine — to be savored and enjoyed only on rare occasions. Most of the time though, your good solution-providers are likely to be much “closer to home” (or actually, “closer to work”) …